Gardening with Allergies

the allergy fighting garden

If you or someone you know has an issue with gardening due to allergies, you should seriously check out this book.

In it, respected author and horticulturist Thomas Leo Ogren explains how some plants produce a great deal of pollen, others produce little or none, and some even remove pollen from the air.

Mr. Ogren has developed a scale, known as OPALS, that rates thousands of trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers by the amount of pollen they produce.

He further expands on this in his most recent book The Allergy Fighting Garden

For anyone who wishes to garden, but refrains due to allergies or asthma, this book can change their world. For others who suffer systems simply by going to the local park, this book may help persuade park officials to rethink what they plant.

Personally, I am lucky to be one of the people who doesn’t suffer from allergy issues. But my husband does. Reading this has made me take a second look at our yard.

You can get yourself a copy using this link.

It will pay for itself quickly in tissues, eye drops, and OTC medications.

April 25, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: Gardening People, Places & Things  One Comment

My Garden Can Beat Up Your Garden

Note: This post originally was published in June, 2010.
This repost is a tribute to our daughter, who is about to graduate college with numerous honors and awards. She will also be attending a prestigious University to pursue her master degree in the fall.

This has always been my favorite post.

My youngest daughter and I were gazing out the front window the other day, watching the sprinkler water her garden.

She had planted it solely to donate the produce to our local food pantry; what a kid.

A somewhat unusual, even for us, conversation took place:

eggplant flower

eggplant flower

Gardening Jones:…………………………………..SaveTheWorld Jones:
“Your garden’s looking pretty good………..”My garden is better than yours
“Mine’s bigger ………………………………………”Bigger’s not always better
“It is with gardens…………………………”Mine’s square-r, more symmetrical
“Mine’s more trapezoidal …………………”Mine’s like a C-shape-maze thing
“Mine’s going to feed the family……………..”Mine’s going to feed the needy
“Okay, I’ll give you that one……………………. :-) …………………………..
“Mine’s got more stuff in it ………………………. “My eggplants have flowers
“Your eggplants have flowers? ………………..”Ha! I win, my garden’s better
“I can’t believe you have flowers already…….”My garden’s better than yours
“That stinks…………………………………………………………”Hahaha! I win.

cucumber flower

cucumber flower

“I see your cucumbers have flowers ……………..”Which are the cucumbers?
“Those with the yellow flowers…………. “Oh, I thought those were eggplants

“Fail………………………………………………………………..”Yeah, Epic Fail

~I love my kids~

SaveTheWorld’s Garden Project

April 18, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Keeping up with the Joneses, Kids & Gardening  No Comments

The Parsnips Experiment Conclusion

regrowing parsnips

Part 1
Part 2

Here’s the recap:
In the spring of 2013 we planted parsnip seeds in our Zone 5/6 garden.
That fall, we harvested some of the roots and left others to overwinter.

In the spring of 2014 we harvested some of those roots, and left a few to go to seed. Since we didn’t plant any new seed, there were no roots to overwinter. We just wanted to see if we could keep doing this and never buy seeds again.

Well sure enough the seedling shown above is one of many that are popping up. We’re probably a good 3 weeks ahead of when we would normally have seedlings this size, as we would just be putting in seeds now.

The experiment was successful except for one thing.

We really don’t want to dedicate and entire 4×4 foot bed to just parsnips.

So we bit the bullet and removed about half of the seedlings. We can use the saved seeds from last fall to plant in a spot that can be their forever home, albeit a bit smaller one.

Now we can cross parsnips off the list of seeds we’ll ever need to buy.
What a great feeling.

April 12, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Parsnips, Preparedness & Green Living, The Experiments  No Comments

How to Grow – Strawberries

how to grow strawberries

A self-planted strawberry.

Strawberries are easy to grow once they are established, but many die because of improper planting.
The strawberry above planted itself from a runner that landed in a mulched pathway.
You can see how shallow the root system was, just barely below ground level.

how to grow strawberries

strawberry crown

This picture is a close-up of a strawberry crown.
When you plant, be sure to keep the crown above ground level, or the plant will die.

Been there, done that.

how to grow strawberries

delicate and pretty strawberry flowers

If you pinch off the strawberry flowers the first year, your plants will put more attention into their roots.
These are second year plants and are loaded with flowers.

how to grow strawberries

It won't be long now.

Then all you need to do is thin out your plants every few years so you have more room for new growth.

Read more here.
An unusual Spinach-Strawberry Salad

Botanical name: Fragaria ananassa
Yield: Multiple berries per plant.
Spacing: At least 4″, best to leave room for the plants to spread.
Harvest: Spring through summer as the berries ripen.
Storage: Freeze, can as juice, jam, etc., dehydrate

April 11, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Fruits, How to Grow  10 Comments

Stevia – You Can Grow That!

how to gor stevia

Stevia has the reputation of being difficult to grow, and the truth is, it is just picky about germination. It can take a number of seeds to get one or two to sprout.

Unlike most seeds, stevia needs the light to germinate. To plant, just lay the seeds right on top of your seed starting mix and place it in a warm, bright spot. Of course, keep it moist. It should take 2-3 weeks before you see any sprouts.

We only got this one plant, started January 12th., but it is growing slow and healthy. A little fertilizer helps, and now it is about ready for its final transplanting.

Stevia leaves can be used fresh or dried, or you can make a liquid infusion instead. It has no calories, and can be used in many of the same ways you would use sugar or commercially packaged Stevia. A little goes a long way. It also doesn’t contribute to tooth decay, how neat is that!

Once we have room in our now overflowing seed starting area, we intend to try a few more seeds. How wonderful to be able to use a plant to sweeten our home grown tea.

The less dependent on others we can become, well you might say, it is a really sweet deal.

Botanical name: Stevia rebaudiana Note there are different varieties, with varying appearance.
Days to Maturity: 120
Growth habit: Perennial if kept away from frost.
Height: Up to 2 ft.

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort on the 4th. day of each month among gardeners around the world to encourage everyone to grow something.
Find more posts by clicking on the logo above.

And then go ahead and grow something!

April 4, 2015  Tags: , , , , , ,   Posted in: Herbs, You Can Grow That!  2 Comments

6 Secrets to Growing Carrots

Plant carrots close together.

Growing carrots in the home garden will be more successful if you know a few things:

1. Carrots can be grown in the early spring, but their germination rate will be slower. The days to germination, as is also the case with days to maturity that are found on seed packets, are based on optimal conditions. Give your spring planted carrots more time to sprout.

2. Like their cousins parsnips, carrots need to be kept moist until they sprout. Like constantly moist. That’s where the benefit of spring comes in, it is usually wetter than summer. If watering your carrot bed every day it doesn’t rain isn’t an option, consider covering the area loosely with plastic to keep the moisture in, or pre-germinate them in paper towels before planting.

3. A good soft soil to grow in will give you better roots. We have red clay here in the northeast part of Pa., so carrots get a raised bed of their own. Okay, sometimes we will partner them with beets and kohlrabi, but you get the idea. We use BM1 which is a nice potting soil with perlite, vermiculite, and sphagnum moss. To that we add well aged horse manure and compost. Yea, we grow some nice roots in that!

4. Give them a little elbow room. Carrot seeds are tiny, so unless you are using or making a seed tape, you will need to thin them out. Just give them enough room so they aren’t pushing each other around.

5. Give them time. Again the days to maturity that are listed on the seed packet is what would happen in a perfect environment. Unless you live in Eden, your carrots will be ready when they decide. Know that different varieties mature faster, so planting a few kinds will give you a longer harvest period.

6. Carrots can take the cold, and really can be harvested until the ground freezes. By planting at intervals and heavily mulching the beds, we have been able to pick carrots well into January. Not bad here in Zone 5/6.

Over time we have found that we aren’t that interested in being in the garden in the winter. Now we harvest all our crop by the time the frosts begin to arrive, and store them fresh using this method. You can also freeze, can and dehydrate them.

March 31, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Carrots  2 Comments

How to Grow – Perennial Onions

Also known as Tree Onions, Perennial Onions, Top Onions -amongst other names- these hardy perennials are one of the first veggies to be enjoyed in the spring.

They are quite prolific in most areas. I planted mine from a cluster given to me by a friend.
I divided it into two, and planted in containers so I wouldn’t end up with ‘onions everywhere’ as she described her plants.

The onions, unless completely harvested, will reproduce two ways:
Bulbs that are left in the ground form clusters of new plants and these will send up new shoots.

perennial onion

new onion shoots

Also, the leaves will produce ‘sets’ which become too heavy for the onion to support, causing it to bend over- which gives the sets a chance to root and grow. Hence the name ‘walking’ onion.

walking onion sets

walking onion sets

Here is an onion I pulled out last night.
You can see it is about scallion size now, but the others will grow bigger bulbs over the summer- ending up about the size of a shallot.

egyptian walking onion

early in spring

Generally we just harvest the tops for the greens, which actually encourages more new growth.

Botanical name: Allium cepa
Yield: Perennial plant which will have an increased yield over time
Harvest: Green tops or full onions- be careful to leave some in the ground.
Storage: Layer the green tops and freeze, then slice off as needed, or Roast
Learn more about it.
Territorial Seeds sells sets

March 31, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Onions & Leeks  4 Comments

The Myth of the Green Thumb

Playing in the dirt.

Brown fingers = Green thumbs

“I have a brown thumb, I can’t grow anything.”

Or worse,

“I have 2 black thumbs, I kill every plant I touch.”

Sometimes I’ll joke that I kill houseplants, that I am only good at growing outdoors. Truth be told, when I lived in a house with a huge bay window that faced southeast, I was really good at growing plants indoors. Really, really good.

The difference, of course, was the environment.

So why do some people just seem to have a knack for growing plants? Personally, I think most of it is learned.

My Mother used to be an excellent grower of African Violets, a rather temperamental plant that many give up on. “The secrets,” she said, “are to water from below, never move them, and only give them 1/4 turn each week so they grow evenly.”

Was it a knack, or did she learn what it took?

Consider growing plants compared to playing music (our other favorite hobby):

Music is basically math. Anyone can learn math, though some might think they are bad at it; anyone can learn to play music. True, to be outstanding, you need to feel it as well; to relax, and allow yourself to be drawn in.

Growing plants is botany, everyday science. Anyone can learn science, but to be good at growing plants you have to get into it. Like my Mom and her African Violets, she kept at it until she learned what they wanted, what it took to do it well. In order for them to grow healthy and flower, they needed her to relax.

Henry Ford made the famous statement “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are probably right.”

So if you know someone who thinks they have a brown thumb, pass this on:

Relax. Let yourself be drawn in.

Don’t be afraid to learn by experience, which will include failures. These are precious lessons never forgotten.

Most importantly, think positively; the plants will respond.

You just might surprise yourself and find you have that ‘knack’ after all; it was inside you all the time.

Origin of the expression Green Thumb.

March 29, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Jonesen'  4 Comments

9 Ways to Teach Children About Food

pears, not avocados

Recently I was at the local grocery buying some fresh produce. Let me tell you, it was hard; but I needed to have fresh for a reason and everything at home is preserved right now.

There was a young man checking me out, and he really wasn’t looking at what anything was, just at the code numbers. Until he came to a bag with two pieces of fruit, no sticker.

“Avocados?” he asked.
“No,” I said somewhat sadly, “pears.”

Now in his defense it was the last hour of his shift, and he was tired. But these weren’t anything fancy, they are pretty much the same kind of pears that fall from the trees in this area. This is a small country grocery, and avocados are the most unusual thing they stock.

I posted this in a social media group of gardeners, and a lengthy thread was born. There was some finger pointing as to whom is to blame, and there were many similar stories; some quite funny. Mostly it was sad.

The thing is, there is a real disconnect in this country with where our food comes from, and what it actually is. We cannot expect a parent or teacher to teach what they haven’t learned themselves.

But gardeners can.

It’s the ‘takes a village to raise a child’ thing, and as gardeners, who do know about food, we can help.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Offer a community tour of your edible garden. If you live in a safe neighborhood, choose a day this season when the garden is producing and invite friends and neighbors. Tell them what they are looking at, they may not recognize it.

2. Ask your local market, especially if it has a good produce department, to offer a community day such as this. Partner with the store’s dietician, which many have these days, and perhaps you as a gardener or your local master gardeners can explain where the produce comes from and what to do with it.

3. Teach at home. Chances are you are already, but also try to pick a fruit or veggie you can’t grow, and bring it home as a teaching opportunity. It doesn’t have to be daily, but once in a while will help.

4. Make a slideshow and bring that and a few examples to your local grade school. Many kids only know what an apple is, no other fruit and few if any veggies.

5. Similarly, offer something at your local place of worship. If parishioners get together after service, that would be the prefect time.

6. Teach the parents. Offer easy recipes. Offer seeds if you have extra. They can then take over the effort.

7. Find out if your local foodbank can accept produce. Get together with other gardeners and/or farm markets to gather some up. Often the foodbanks will also provide recipes and nutrition information. You can also add info on how the food grows.

8. Pass this post on. You never know who you may be reaching, and what wonderful help they may have to offer.

9. Watch this: Teach Every Child About Food- Jamie Oliver

The thing is DO SOMETHING.

One last quote: “Be the change you want to see in this world.” – Gandhi

March 28, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Kids & Gardening, Preparedness & Green Living  No Comments

Gardening & The 7 Dimensions of Wellness

good health

A wonderful site called Bonbon Break was looking for submissions recently on the topic “Fill Your Bucket”. They had partnered with a really cool company named OurPact that produces an Ap that parents can use to limit their kid’s e-interaction time.

Hmmm…. I wonder if it works for adult kids. ;-)

Anyway, I had been thinking a lot about what I might write when I remembered a woman I had met long ago who told me how gardening had saved her. She was so extremely depressed, she said, that she could barely function in her daily life. Gardening had changed all that.

What a fantastic thing that something so seemingly simple, can make a world of difference to a person.

And I knew why. Psychology is actually my field by profession, and part of that education was learning about the different dimensions of wellness. This was more recently fine-tuned by a professor I know, who in working with my staff and our senior population, taught them about overall wellness.

What does Fill Your Bucket meant to you? To me, it is a healthy life in balance.

Please follow this link to learn more, and pass it on.
You never know when it might get to someone who really needs it.

Namaste my gardening friends!

March 24, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: Gardening People, Places & Things, Keeping up with the Joneses  No Comments